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Stamford graduate, famous Texas journalist Cochran, 85, a character too

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Some giants have come out of Jones County, especially Stamford.

Charles Coody. Bob Harrisson. James Washington, current receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Charlie Stenholm, retired longtime US Congressman.

Legendary high school coach Gordon Wood, who led the Bulldogs to back-to-back state football titles in the 1950s.

And Mike Cochran.

Cochran was a legend in Texas journalism, working for 39 years for the Associated Press. He reported sports for the Abilene Reporter-News before joining the AP, opening his office in Fort Worth.

He ended his career as senior editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, working there for five years.

Cochran died on Tuesday. He was 85 years old.

“You can’t separate Mike as a reporter, as a writer, as a character, as a Texan,” longtime friend and colleague John Lumpkin, a former bureau chief for the Institute, said in 2020. PA. “They are fused together and are who he was and what he has become.”

Cochran’s honors were many. He was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame in 2018. He was selected Star Reporter of the Year by the Headliners Foundation, the highest individual honor given annually to a Texas journalist.

In 2021, he was inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame as a sportswriter.

Following:When it comes to sports writing, Stamford’s Mike Cochran was an ace

A career full of highlights

Cochran could command a play, telling his many stories – some funny, some amazing, and some poignant.

He caught the eye of a listener, but he was also all ears when listening to others.

“You had to love being with Mike Cochran. He was a great storyteller, both in print and even more so in person. He had an infectious laugh and drew people to him,” the former editor said. from Reporter-News, Glenn Dromgoole. “I think people loved Mike because he loved people. He made everyone feel special.”

One of the best stories he told was advancing other reporters as carriers of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was shot as the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

Jack Ruby publicly shot Oswald two days later, and Oswald was buried on November 25.

Following:Journalist Mike Cochran’s dark load to bear – Oswald’s coffin in 1963

Cochran was only 26 years old.

Mike Cochran, middle, helps carry the coffin of Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy.  Journalists carried the coffin while others would not.  Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963. He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth.

Cochran also secured an interview with Oswald’s wife, Marina, by knocking on his door, talking inside – he told her he had carried the coffin, and it created an instant bond between them. – and just listening to his story.

When he left, he rushed to his car and wrote notes from memory to ensure his exclusivity.

His experiences with assassination propelled his career. Cochran has covered many major news events, including two space shuttle disasters and the massive 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and other infamous people, such as preacher-turned-villain Walker Railey and accused murderer T Cullen Davis.

Cochran is the author of five books, including works on former Governor Clayton Williams and Hardin-Simmons University graduate Doyle Brunson, who switched from football to poker to make a name for himself.

Always drawn to West Texas

Cochran attended HSU for two years before moving to North Texas State University in Denton. Graduating from Stamford High in 1954, he would return to Abilene, choosing West Texas over the Texas coast for work.

Why?

He had the chance to cover HSU football, at the time coached by the already legendary Sammy Baugh.

He didn’t stay in Abilene long, using the 1960 Cotton Bowl as a stepping stone to joining the AP. The story goes that he was the lucky victim of mistaken identity, landing an interview with the news agency and getting a job.

Yet he was repeatedly brought back to West Texas

“Although he transitioned to a statewide imprint later in his career at the Associated Press, Mike was at his best when he put the hammer on his company car and rocked along the West Texas freeways and several back roads,” Lumpkin said last week.

“He was at his best with his lyrical prose about West Texas characters – the bright lights, the lowlifes and the true icons. Sammy Baugh, alone and aging on his ranch near Rotan. Billie Sol Estes in Brady se asks if he could avoid another prick Clayton Williams from Midland Marj Carpenter, pioneer journalist from Big Spring.

“Bootlegger became civic leader Tom “Pinkie” Roden, Brownwood’s favorite undertaker Groner Pitts, or his favorite football coach, Gordon Wood. He brought Candy Barr back from Brownwood decades after the notoriety of his stripper days. teaser in Dallas and her friendship with Jack Ruby.”

Sporty too

Cochran’s talent was storytelling, but his passion was sports.

He covered many Texas college football games for the AP, particularly TCU and Texas Tech. He covered major golf tournaments in the Fort Worth-Dallas area and was not a bad golfer himself. He was Coody’s teammate at Stamford.

“I wrote a lot about sports but I was not a sports figure,” he said in 2020.

Ah, but maybe he was.

“What would the hospitality suite provided by Texas Tech Athletics be before Red Raiders football games without him at the height of the Southwest Conference?” Lumpkin thinks. “Or for that matter, the press room of the PGA tour stop a long time ago at the Fairway Oaks Country Club, the LaJet Classic?”

Lee Trevino throws clubs from the bag of Mike Cochran, right, on the first tee during the 1971 pro-am at the Colonial National Invitational.  Trevino called the club collection

Drinks, tab was on Mike (or AP)

Cochran was a familiar face at the annual Associated Press editor’s conferences, famous as the host of the 19th hole after the day’s activities.

“Among newspaper editors, perhaps Mike’s most endearing quality is that he organized and held court in the hospitality room at our annual Associated Press Editors’ Convention” , said Dromgoole. “There was always plenty of beer to drink when Mike was around, and he could stow impressive amounts of it himself.”

Cochran was healthy enough to attend the delayed 2021 event held in October in San Angelo with his wife, Sondra. They were married for 63 years.

She is also originally from Stamford.

Cochran was not born in Texas – he was an Okie from Muskogee. But since his youth in Stamford, there was no place like the Lone Star State.

He enjoyed his travels, especially his return to West Texas.

“He was welcomed by West Texas journalism titans like Abilene’s Stormy Shelton,” Lumpkin said. “He was right at home with a radio station owner in Brownwood or the soft-spoken Hereford brand editor in the Panhandle.”

Cochran was heading to his old haunt on Cypress Street in Abilene.

“When I was editor of the Reporter-News,” Dromgoole said, “I knew I was going to have a night of good steaks and good fun when Mike and AP bureau chief John Lumpkin stopped to visit me.

“And the AP always took the tab.”

But, Lumpkin said, Cochran made himself comfortable around reporters and others who had their own stories to tell.

“Sure, he could treat the editor to a steak dinner,” Lumpkin said, “but he enjoyed sharing beer and war stories after the night shift with reporters at places like Bar L just as much. in Wichita Falls.

Cochran’s funeral will be held Jan. 29 in Fort Worth.

It’s a sure thing he’ll toast afterwards.

Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.